On the evening of June 23, in the United States, millions of women went to bed with a Constitutional right to choose to have an abortion, and they went to bed with the many assurances that are tied to that right—to speak about getting an abortion, to organize and provide support to those seeking abortions, to search for abortion services safely online, to digitally track their menstrual cycles, to record their reproductive plans, all without too much concern about who would be interested in that information.
But on June 24, that Constitutional right was removed by the Supreme Court.
Immediately, this legal story has become one of data privacy, as countless individuals ask themselves: What surrounding activity is now allowed?
Should Google be used to find abortion providers out of state? Can people write on Facebook or Instagram that they will pay for people to travel to their own states, where abortion is protected? Should people continue texting friends about their thoughts on abortion? Should they continue to use a period-tracking app? Should they switch to a different app that is now promising to technologically protect their data from legal requests? Should they clamp down on all their data? What should they do?
Today, on the Lock and Code podcast with host David Ruiz, we speak with two experts on this intersection of data privacy and legal turmoiil—Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney Saira Hussain and senior staff technologist Cooper Quintin.
As Quintin explains in the podcast, while much of the focus has recently been on the use of period-tracking apps, there are so many other forms of data out there that people should protect:
"Period-tracking apps aren’t the only apps that are problematic. The fact is that the majority of apps are harvesting data about you. Location data, data that you put into the apps, personal data. And that data is being fed to data brokers, to people who sell location data, to advertisers, to analytics companies, and we’re building these giant warehouses of data that could eventually be trawled through by law enforcement for dragnet searches."
By spotlighting how benign data points—including shopping habits and locations—have already been used to reveal pregnancies and miscarriages and to potentially identify abortion-seekers, our guests explain what data could now be of interest to law enforcement, and how people at home can keep their decisions private and secure.
Tune in to hear all this and more on the most recent episode of Lock and Code.
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Show notes and credits:
Intro Music: “SCP-x5x (Outer Thoughts)” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License
Outro Music: “Good God” by Wowa (unminus.com)